Breath Test for Drug Testing In the Pipeline

Niclas Stephanson, PhD Leg. Apotekare, Analytisk kemist Karolinska Universitetssjukhuset Interview with:
Niclas Stephanson, PhD
Leg. Apotekare, Analytisk kemist
Karolinska Universitetssjukhuset

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Stephanson: Drug testing is most commonly performed using urine samples, which is based on a long and comprehensive experience. The methodology and regulations for reliable urine testing are well developed and can be considered the current gold standard for drug testing. However, one problem with urine testing is related to the sample collection, often perceived as inconvenient and privacy-overriding by those undergoing the test. To overcome this problem a group of researchers from the Department of Laboratory Medicine at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden have worked on developing a more donor-friendly alternative to urine testing for drugs by focusing on exhaled breath.

Doctor Niclas Stephanson in the research group led by Professor Olof Beck, has developed the first fully validated and robust screening method for the routine measurement of drugs of abuse in exhaled breath. The procedure involves a simple method of sample collection and preparation, which is followed by a highly sensitive analytical technique known as LC-MS (Liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry). The drug groups which are identified: amphetamine, methamphetamine, cannabis, cocaine and heroin.

The underlying mechanism in exhaled breath drug testing is believed to be the formation of aerosol particles from the airway lining fluid by the breathing process. These aerosol particles may contain drugs present in the body, which enables drugs to be analyzed. A simple collection device is currently available which selectively collects the micrometer aerosol particles on a filter and enables further laboratory investigation of possible drug content.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Stephanson: This results in many possible applications of breath drug testing for workplace, criminal justice, accidents and compliance monitoring of patients, roadside tests relating to DUID (Driving Under the Influence of Drugs) where the short detection time window is relevant since the state of influence is in focus, and this combined with the convenient sampling procedure makes it an attractive solution for roadside testing.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Stephanson: My recommendations for future research will be conducting controlled pharmacokinetic studies related to dose dependent excretion of drugs in breath.


Method validation and application of a liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry method for drugs of abuse testing in exhaled breath Interview with: Niclas Stephanson, PhD (2015). Breath Test for Drug Testing In the Pipeline

[wysija_form id=”2″]

Last Updated on March 11, 2015 by Marie Benz MD FAAD